ORONO, Maine — Special teams will be one of the primary focuses this weekend when the University of Maine Black Bears entertain the St. Lawrence University Saints of the ECAC Hockey League at Alfond Arena.
Maine’s penalty-killing has been a perfect eight-for-eight through three games this season. Maine was 48th among 58 teams in the nation on the penalty kill a year ago, operating at a 79.2 percent success rate.
However, Maine’s power play hasn’t converted on any of its 12 chances after being second-best in the country last year at 26.7 percent.
The Maine players are confident that the power play will eventually click, and they’re hoping to jumpstart it Friday and Saturday night.
Maine lost its top three point-getters off last year’s power play in Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn and Will O’Neill. They combined for 71 power-play points.
“We have a lot of new personnel on the power play and we’re trying different things right now,” said senior defenseman Nick Pryor, who mans the point on one of the power-play units. “Abbott, Flynn and O’Neill were on the power play for two or three years and knew each other well. We’ve had a lot of good chances but we haven’t found the back of the net yet. We’re definitely making progress.
“It takes time. We have some good skilled players. I’m not worried about it and I don’t think anyone else is either,” added Pryor.
“The key right now is keeping it simple, get pucks to the net, create traffic, get good break-ins and support the puck,” said senior defenseman Mike Cornell, another point man on the power play. “The biggest thing for me is just getting pucks to the net to try to create rebounds and second opportunities. We’ve got to create havoc by moving the puck quickly and getting it to the net.
“Once we pop a couple [goals], the rest will come and guys will settle in a little bit,” added Cornell.
Senior left wing Adam Shemansky, who plays down low on the power play, said “it’s just a matter of time.”
“We’ve had some good looks. We just haven’t finished,” said Shemansky. “Goalies have made some great saves.”
He said it takes some time with new personnel on the power-play units “but it’s also about puck luck. We haven’t gotten puck luck like we have in years past.”
St. Lawrence was 37th on the penalty kill a year ago (80.5 percent) and allowed two power-play goals on 13 attempts in a weekend split at Western Michigan. But the Saints scored four power-play goals on 13 chances and senior center Kyle Flanagan has two of them after scoring nine power-play goals a year ago.
They will test Maine’s penalty-killers.
“The guys have been playing smart on the penalty kill,” said Pryor.
“They’ve stayed in position and haven’t been running around and chasing [the puck]. They’ve focused on the type of penalty-kill we’ve been running, listened to the coaches, stayed disciplined and done the little things.”
“We’ve got a lot of experienced guys who are comfortable on the penalty kill,” said Cornell. “We take pride in it. We stress it and watch a lot of video.”